Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes Case Brief

Summary of Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes
523 U.S. 666 (1998)

Facts: A state run television station held political debates between candidates running for federal offices. The station excluded respondent, an independent candidate, from the debates because he had little popular support.

Issue: 1. Are television debates nonpublic fora? 2. If yes, was the exclusion of respondent from the debates reasonable?

Holding: 1. Yes, 2. According to the jury, yes.

Rationale: Both parties agree this television debate was not traditional public forum. Respondent wrongly claims that the debate was designated public forum. For a designated public forum, the government must intend to make the property generally available to a class of people. On the other hand, the government creates a the government does not create a designated public forum when it does no more than reserve eligibility for access to the forum to a particular class of speakers, whose members must then, as individuals, obtain permission to use it. In this case, the debate was not open to the general class of candidates and it was only open to a selective class and editors had a lot of discretion in selecting which candidate was to participate in these debates. Therefore, the debates were nonpublic fora and the actions of the petitioner are unconstitutional only if they are based on viewpoint discrimination. Since the jury found that the petitioner’s actions were not based on objections or opposition to respondent’s views, the exclusion was reasonable.

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